Marcial Maciel

Marcial Maciel Degollado
Founder and General Director
In office
January 3, 1941 – January 20, 2005
Succeeded by Fr. Álvaro Corcuera
Personal details
Born 10 March 1920(1920-03-10)
Cotija de la Paz, Michoacán, Mexico
Died 30 January 2008(2008-01-30) (aged 87)
Jacksonville, Florida, United States

Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado (March 10, 1920 – January 30, 2008) was a Mexican-born Roman Catholic priest who founded the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement. He was accused of pedophilia early in his life and having fathered at least one child.[1] Reports speculate that Maciel maintained relationships with at least two women and fathered up to six children, two of whom he allegedly abused as well.[2] The late Pope John Paul II supported Maciel, but soon after becoming pope, Pope Benedict XVI removed Maciel from active ministry after an investigation started under John Paul II, ordering him to spend the rest of his days in prayer and penance.[3][4] On March 25, 2010, a communiqué on the Legion's website acknowledged as factual "reprehensible actions" by Maciel, including sexual abuse of minor seminarians.[5]

Pope Benedict XVI appointed Archbishop Velasio De Paolis his delegate to examine the Legionaries’ constitution and conduct a visitation of its lay affiliate Regnum Christi.[6]



Maciel was born in Cotija, Michoacán, Mexico and became a priest after a troubled youth.[7]

Maciel was expelled from two seminaries for reasons that have never been explained. He became a priest only when one of his uncles ordained him after private studies.[8]

On January 3, 1941, with the support of Francisco González Arias, Bishop of Cuernavaca, he founded the Legion of Christ and its lay arm Regnum Christi in 1959.[citation needed] Maciel was ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood in Mexico City on November 26, 1944.

Maciel is the grand-nephew of a Mexican saint canonized in 2007, Rafael Guízar Valencia, who also was an integral part of the founding of the Legion of Christ.[9] There has been speculation that conduct by Maciel contributed to the death of this great uncle. According to an investigative report:

The day before Bishop Guizar died, he had been heard shouting angrily at Marcial Maciel. He was giving his eighteen-year-old nephew a dressing down after two women had come to the bishop's house to complain about Maciel, who was their neighbor. Father Orozco, who was among the original group of boys to found the Legion of Christ in 1941, said he heard the women had complained about the "noise" Maciel was making with children he had brought into his home to teach religion. He said that the seminary officials blamed Maciel for his uncle's heart attack.[10]

Through the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Fr. Maciel started many schools, a network of Universities and a large number of charitable institutes. In January 2006 he stepped down as head of the Legion of Christ and tendered its leadership to long-time follower Fr. Álvaro Corcuera Martínez del Río.

During his life, Maciel was the focus of several investigations regarding allegations of drug abuse, (he was hospitalised for morphine addiction) [11] and he was also investigated for sexually abusing children. First in 1956, he was investigated for drug abuse, after which he was exonerated and returned as head of the Congregation. In 2005 Maciel stepped down as head of the order and, a few days before John Paul II died, Cardinal Ratzinger announced his intention of removing "filth" from the Church; many believed he was referring specifically to Maciel.[3] In May 2006, Pope Benedict XVI disciplined him, inviting him to "a reserved life of prayer and penitence"; no explanation was given to the public or to the Legionaries of Christ.

In July 2009, a Spanish daily published an interview with a woman who had a child with Maciel in 1986 and now lives in a luxury apartment in Madrid which Maciel purchased for her.[12] A day later, Mexican media reported that an attorney, José Bonilla, will represent three of a possible total of six of Maciel's children in a civil suit to recover Maciel's estate. The lawyer claimed that there are several properties in Mexico and around the world which Maciel owned in his own name.[13][14]

Marcial Maciel died in Jacksonville, Florida, United States, on January 30, 2008, at age 87.[15] He had a private funeral and was buried in his birth place, Cotija, Michoacán, in early February 2008.

History with Vatican

Called to accompany Pope John Paul II on his visits to Mexico in 1979, 1990, and 1993, Maciel was also appointed by the Pope to the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Formation of Priests in Circumstances of the Present Day (1990). He was a member of the Interdicasterial Commission for a Just Distribution of Clergy (1991), the IV General Conference of Latin American Bishops (CELAM) (1992), the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Consecrated Life and Its Role in the Church and in the World (1994), the Synod of Bishops' Special Assembly for America (1997) and (since 1994) a permanent consultant to the Congregation for the Clergy. The golden anniversary of his priestly ordination was celebrated on 26 November 1994, with 57 Legionary priests ordained on the anniversary's eve. Maciel served as Chancellor of the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, which is based in Rome. Maciel collaborated extensively with the pope, either in person or through members of his organization, the Legion of Christ. Pope John Paul II admired Maciel for strictly adhering to the magisterium and the vocations to the Legion of Christ. He received many donations from Mexico's richest.[16] Maciel gave the Vatican money and some claim that this kept them from acting for years over allegations of sex abuse by Maciel.[11]

Investigative jouranlist Jason Berry wrote in an April 2010 article in The National Catholic Reporter, "the charismatic" founder of the Legion of Christ "sent streams of money to Roman curia officials with a calculated end ... Maciel was buying support for his group and defence for himself, should his astounding secret life become known." Berry and his late colleague Gerald Renner wrote the 2004 book "Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II", and the related TV documentary "Vows of Silence" on Father Maciel and the Legion of Christ. According to Berry, Maciel's key supporters, who provided him with a protective shield, included Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state from 1991 to 2006; Cardinal Eduardo Martínez, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life; and Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Polish secretary of late Pope John Paul II (1978-2005).[17]

The New York times - based on someone who talked to a bishop who heard it from Ratzinger - accused Cardinal Ratzinger of having personally stalled investigations into Maciel.[18]

Maciel wrote extensively on the formation of priests and other matters pertaining to Church governance. In founding the religious order, his main purpose for the Legion of Christ was for the organization to form and motivate enterprising lay members of the Catholic Church to take an active part in the Church's mission. In particular, this initiative focused on the members of the Church Movement Regnum Christi, for example, through spiritual direction. Regnum Christi was founded by Maciel.

Maciel, aged 84, was succeeded by Fr. Álvaro Corcuera Martínez del Río, LC, as General Director of the Legion at the Legion's Third General Chapter in January 2005.[15] Shortly thereafter, after a sex-abuse investigation had been re-opened by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican requested that Maciel withdraw from his ministry in lieu of further investigation and prosecution. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asked Maciel to live a "a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry.”[19] A canonical trial was ruled out because of his advanced age and poor health.[20]

In Feb 2009 news broke that Maciel had indeed led a double life and [21] Fr. Álvaro Corcuera Martínez del Río, LC, the General Director took it upon himself to visit each of the Legionary Territories and publicly apologize for Maciel's behaviour. Additionally it has been publicly acknowledged by the Legion that Maciel had in fact fathered a daughter.[22] As a result of all these recent acknowledgements Pope Benedict XVI has personally intervened and a formal Vatican visitation of all Legionary houses has been initiated.[23]


In 1959, Maciel published a book, El salterio de mis días (The psalter of my days), which subsequently was widely read among members of the Legion. Over the years, the book had been partially translated into English for the use of the English speaking members. It was a memoir of experiences of persecution. On December 11, 2009, the Lima, Peru, based Agencia Católica de Informaciones (ACI, Catholic News Agency) reported, without using the word "plagiarism", that the directors of the Legion has circulated an internal memorandum revealing that the book copied "80 percent in style and content" the posthumously published memoir of a Spanish politician, Luis Lucia Lucia, who died in 1943. The book was written in 1941 (while its author was held as a political prisoner of the Franco regime) and published in 1956 in Valencia, Spain.[24][25]

Formal denunciation by the Vatican

On May 1, 2010 the Vatican said that the pope would name a delegate to the Legion to review the Legionaries of Christ following revelations that the order's founder sexually abused numerous underage seminarians and fathered at least three children with two women. In a statement, the Vatican denounced Maciel for creating a "system of power" that enabled him to lead an "immoral" double life "devoid of scruples and authentic religious sentiment."[26] The Vatican issued the statement after Pope Benedict XVI met with five bishops who investigated the Legion to determine its future.[27] The Vatican statement was remarkable in its tough denunciation of Maciel's crimes and deception.[28]

The "very serious and objectively immoral acts" of Maciel, which were "confirmed by incontrovertible testimonies" represent "true crimes and manifest a life without scruples or authentic religious sentiment," the Vatican said.[29] The Vatican also stated that the Legion created a "mechanism of defense" around Maciel to shield him from accusations and suppress damaging witnesses from reporting abuse. "It made him untouchable," the Vatican said. The statement decried "the lamentable disgracing and expulsion of those who doubted" Maciel's virtue. The Vatican statement did not address whether the Legion's current leadership will face any sanctions.[30] Actions taken by the current Legion leadership will be scrutinized; but no specific sanctions were mentioned, amid suspicion that at least some of the current leaders must have been aware of Maciel's sins. The Vatican acknowledged the "hardships" faced by Maciel's accusers through the years when they were ostracized or ridiculed, and commended their "courage and perseverance to demand the truth."[16]

As a result of this comunique, on Jul 9, 2010, Archbishop (now Cardinal) Velasio De Paolis was named as the papal delegate to the Legion.[31]


  1. ^ ((cite) Mexico City, Mexico, Mar 4, 2010 / 06:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).The Legionaries of Christ released two statements today responding to the dramatic revelations by a woman and her three sons who claim to be the wife and children of Fr. Marcial Maciel.
  2. ^ Pope Rewrites Epitaph for Legion of Christ Founder
  3. ^ a b Telegraph 2006-02-02
  4. ^ "Catholic order to be overhauled after founder's abuse". BBC News. 2010-05-01. Retrieved 2010-09-19. 
  5. ^ "COMMUNIQUÉ On the current circumstances of the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement". Legoinaries of Christ. 25 March 2010. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  6. ^ Pope Reins In Catholic Order Tied to Abuse (New York Times, May 2, 2010)
  7. ^ "Analysis: Legion of Christ Founder leaves a flawed legacy". Retrieved 2010-09-19. 
  8. ^ Berry, Jason (2008-02-22). "Fr. Marcial Maciel leaves behind a flawed legacy | National Catholic Reporter | Find Articles at BNET". Retrieved 2010-09-19. 
  9. ^ Associated Press 2006-10-16
  10. ^ Berry and Renner 2004: 155
  11. ^ a b "Inside look at the Legionaries of Christ". 2010-02-11. Retrieved 2010-09-19. 
  12. ^ Periodista Digital 2009-08-09
  13. ^ Milenio 2009-08-11
  14. ^ La Jornada 2009-08-11
  15. ^ a b "Our History - Legion of Christ". 
  16. ^ a b Vatican orders overhaul in Mexico after investigation of sexual abuse - Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2010)
  17. ^ "Pope Rewrites Epitaph for Legion of Christ Founder - IPS". 2010-05-03. Retrieved 2010-09-19. 
  18. ^ Wakin, Daniel J.; McKinley Jr, James C. (May 2, 2010). "Abuse Case Offers a View of the Vatican's Politics". The New York Times. 
  19. ^ Catholic News Agency 2009-02-03
  20. ^ Pope to appoint new head of disgraced Legionaries order
  21. ^ "Legionaries of Christ acknowledge founder’s ‘inappropriate’ behavior". Catholic News Agency. 3 February 2009. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  22. ^ Thompson, Damien. 2009-02-04
  23. ^ Catholic News Agency 2009-03-31
  24. ^ ACI Prensa, 2009-12-11
  25. ^ El Mundo, 2009-12-12
  26. ^ Statement of the Holy See - Legion of Christ
  27. ^ Pope names envoy, commission to reform Legionaries
  28. ^ [1][dead link]
  29. ^ Fr. Maciel guilty, revision of Legion needed, according to Apostolic Visitors
  30. ^ Pope Benedict to Overhaul Legion of Christ
  31. ^ Pope Benedict XVI names Papal Delagate for the Legion of Christ - Regnum Christi


External links

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